Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

McLaren, Rachel

First Committee Member

Baxter, Leslie

Second Committee Member

High, Andrew

Third Committee Member

Steuber, Keli

Fourth Committee Member

Harkness, Sarah


The goal of this investigation was to marry two theories of supportive communication outcomes in order to test a comprehensive model of social support for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The theoretical frameworks utilized in this investigation were the theory of conversationally-induced reappraisals and the dual-process theory of supportive communication outcomes. These theoretical frameworks provide a foundation for the conversation of how social network members can help their loved ones with OCD manage their distressing symptoms as they explore the types of social support message features (verbal person-centeredness) that are most productive in achieving emotional improvement for those experiencing emotional distress. The union of these two theories in the context of social support and OCD management led to the testing of seven hypotheses.

Participants (n = 168) who self-identified as living with OCD at some point in their life were recruited to fill out an online questionnaire. Results indicated support for the theory of conversationally-induced reappraisals, but not for the dual-process theory of supportive communication outcomes. Overall, the findings of this investigation highlighted the utility of emotional support messages high in verbal person-centeredness as they led those with OCD to reassess the intrusive nature of their symptoms, a process which promoted overall affective improvement. These associations suggest that social network members can help their loved ones with OCD manage their symptoms through supportive communication.

Public Abstract

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) report higher levels of anxiety and distress due to the nature of their symptoms in comparison to the general population. While various treatment options exist for this disorder, one additional possibility is that family, friends, and other loved ones can help those afflicted manage their symptoms through supportive communication. The purpose of this investigation was to explore the extent to which specific social support messages could aid in this endeavor. More broadly, this study tested two theories of social support outcomes in an effort to construct an overall picture of the social support process. To test the hypotheses of this investigation people with self-identified OCD were recruited to complete an online questionnaire. Results provided support for one of the theories of social support outcomes. The results indicated the usefulness of emotional support messages that enabled the individual with OCD to express and elaborate on their feelings as this process encouraged the person to reassess the nature of their symptoms. This reassessment or reappraisal process ultimately led to emotional improvement for those with the disorder. The results of this investigation highlight the ability for social network members to help their loved ones cope with their OCD symptoms by identifying the effectiveness of a specific type of emotional support in OCD symptom management. For people who feel helpless in the wake of their loved one’s OCD, this investigation shines light on the ways in which supportive communication can bring those with mental illness out of the darkness.


publicabstract, communication, mental health, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social support


ix, 131 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 101-112).


Copyright 2015 Melissa Margarite Schnettler

Included in

Communication Commons